Spain isn’t exactly world renowned for its beer scene. But before my recent trip to Barcelona, I’d heard whispers that things were looking up (in the Catalan capital, at least).
To be fair, these whispers weren’t too whispery at all…there’s been quite a social media fuss made about the bloody good quality of this year’s Barcelona Beer Festival and growing international acclaim afforded to Spanish indie brewers, such as Naparbier (who’ve brewed collaborations with the likes of Mikkeller, Lervig, and Birrificio Toccalmatto). It seems like the cat is out of the bag: the landscape of Spain’s metropolitan beer scene is starting to look ever more interesting.
This said, I was still remarkably surprised to stumble across what can only be described as a World Class Beer Bar during my stay in Barcelona. After a couple of visits to this fairly new beer mecca a few minutes walk from Plaça de Catalunya, I can safely say that it’s in my Top Five bars I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Take a bow, BierCaB.
Tucked away ten minutes stroll around the corner from the tourist madness of Passeig de Gràcia and Plaça de Catalunya is this total gem of a bar. It’s still in its first year of operation; everything is clean, sparkling and well thought out – there are none of the signs of grubbiness or wear-and-tear that go hand-in-hand with a few of the city’s other decent beer locations.
The whole feel of BierCab is slick. These guys know what the hell they’re doing. It feels like one of those establishments that many a beer geek would go into and think “aye, if I had a few hundred grand going spare, I’d do something like this”. The utmost care has been taken in all aspects of the business, from the decor to the tiny (but amazing) detail of having a real-time updating tap-list on their website. Of course, it would be wrong of me to review a bar and leave out the beer. So here we go…
The beer, the bloody great beer
I don’t know who imports beer into Catalunya, but whoever it is, they’ve got their shit together. BierCaB is blessed with 30 taps of immensely high quality from many of the biggest names in European craft brewing (and some more niche gear too). There’s a surprisingly heavy focus on UK beer, with real gems on tap from the likes of The Kernel, Siren, Magic Rock, and Beavertown amongst others. The gloriously fruity and slightly funky Farmhouse IPA collab from Magic Rock and Lervig was belting, while it’s always an absolute bloody pleasure to sup on The Kernel’s modern-day-classic Imperial Brown Stout.
Going away from my home-country beers, there was such a well chosen selection from elsewhere in Europe; from the giant Goliat Imperial Stout by the nutters at To Øl to modern and less-modern Belgian classics from Brasserie de la Senne and Oud Beersel respectively.
One critique (if you could call it that) was the relative lack of local beer on tap. I’m a big fan of ‘drinking fresh’, and you don’t get much fresher than local breweries kegging their beer, banging it straight in a van, and getting it direct to thirsty punters at the bar. Now, all the beers I had during my visits to BierCaB were in great condition (not a cardboardy hop in sight), but I was hoping for more than 4 locals out of 30.
No matter, the locals they had were delicious. Especially beautiful was the Naparbier Pils – a true fresh, crisp, perfumed Noble hop delight – and a very juicy Double IPA from La Pirata. Quality, not quantity, of local gear is totally fine by me.
If the mighty 30 brews on tap don’t tickle your fancy, then why not open the bible-sized bottle menu. Jesus. It’s some menu. I can name fewer than five other bars I’ve been to with a better list than this, it’s that good. But what really sets it apart is the damn fairness of the pricing. There are some total gems here (shedloads of vintage Trappist brews and an even bigger selection of cellar aged gueuze and lambic) but they refrain from engaging in pricing the shit out of them. These are bottles intended to be cracked open, not to have on the menu to show off for years to come as no bugger can afford them (you know the places I’m talking about). I love this.
La Vermontoise (Hill Farmstead’s collab with the Belgian brewery, Blaugies), was a delight. Light, spritzy, with notes of white pepper, grapefruit and lemon peel. Plenty of delicious yeasty spice in the taste with a little bit of spelt bread roughness, followed by more grapefruit juice and citrus peel. Crisp, delicate, joyous. The Golden Doesjel from Drei Fonteinen was just the quality you’d expect. Surprisingly peach-led throughout, it still gives delicious citric and Granny Smith tartness, with some deep mustiness to boot. Another subtle, wonderfully put-together brew. Oh, and both of the above bottles together left me with change from twenty quid. BierCaB is the bloody Robin Hood of beer bars.
Here’s where my appraisals of beer specialist bars would normally cease, but wait, there’s more…
The food, oh God, the food
As a total foodie, I often feel a little let down by choices in some of the world’s best beer bars. Granted, I totally understand the mindset of doing one thing and one thing bloody well. Beer bars are for drinking – I get that. But in my mind, the truly world class ones pay attention to lining their patrons’ stomachs too.
Hopefully the above pictures provide a telling snapshot about how damn good the food menu is at BierCaB, so I don’t have to keep bending your ears about how much I’m in love with this place. Wagyu beef with hop chimichurri, man, HOP CHIMICHURRI. And the most delicate octopus I’ve ever eaten. A revelation. And all so affordable. Just yes.
In all, BierCaB rests comfortably in my personal top five beer bars in the world. Keeping good company with Mikkeller & Friends (DK), Mikkeller SF (USA), Moeder Lambic Fontainas (BE), Craft Beer Company, Clerkenwell (UK), and The Trappist, Oakland (USA). It knocked me off my feet completely – I just wasn’t expecting it.
Barcelona is one hell of a city in many ways, but if you’re a beer drinker, it’s now one hell of a lot better.